Miami Residents Sue To Block Walmart From Building On Endangered Pine Rocklands Forest (UPDATED)
Miami residents have filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County for improper notice of a massive rezoning of South Florida’s most endangered forest into a Walmart anchored mixed-use development.
The Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition (MPRC) began in January 2015 after Walmart‘s developer partner Ram Realty announced a plan to buy a sizeable pine rocklands forest, and to pave it over to take advantage of the University of Miami’s permission to build out the site — which used to house their South Campus — into an “academic village.”
MPRC President Al Sunshine and Vice President Cully Waggoner both live directly across the street from the Pine Rocklands, which is home to Zoo Miami, an old Coast Guard base, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and the University of Miami’s C-Stars facility.
The pair filed suit for the Miami-Dade County’s failure to properly inform themselves and other neighbors of the hearing by withholding the property location, the “layman’s summary” or via mailed notices, all items required under the County Code’s mandatory notice provisions of ordinance §33–310.
“Those notices mailed to the neighbors did not mention the planned Wal-Mart Shopping Center or a 600-unit residential building,” says the MPRC’s lawyer Kent Harrison Robbins. He continued:
“If the Court rules that the notices did not comply with the law, the changes in the zoning approved in 2013 would be null and void and the developers and University of Miami would have to start all over again.”
Miami endangered Pine Rocklands is the unique original habitat of Florida’s southernmost uplands.
The forest that MPRC is fighting to protect is the largest remaining natural forest community of its type outside the Everglades. It is the sole home to the newly discovered endangered species — the Miami Tiger Beetle — and numerous other endangered plants and animals.
In September 2014, outraged Kendall residents confronted Walmart’s development partner Ram Realty for the first time. Ram’s founder Peter Cummings admitted to the audience that his company knew that the property had endangered species. But Ram Realty conducted only limited due diligence before buying the property.
This is the first legal action in the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition’s fight to save their city’s most endangered forest.
“The public has a right to know all the details when a developer and major university team up to bulldoze and pave over an endangered habitat listed under the endangered species act of the federal government just weeks before its rezoned for more urban sprawl,” said Al Sunshine, lamenting the short-sighted decisions made without public input at the pine rocklands site.
The award-winning, retired journalist Sunshine concluded:
“That information was never apparently disclosed to zoning officials or residents and should render the flawed rezoning decision null and void.”